The Quest for Druidry via Arthur, Ceridwen and Other Ancient Myths
by Cerri Lee, reposted from Cerri’s Blog
I am a self confessed modern day druid, many people over the years try to tell me and others like me, that I can not be a druid as I do not know what they did, there is no book of rules to follow so how do I know that I am doing is authentic enough to be called druidry?…etc.etc..
Well you know its true I don’t know for sure what they did, we have the writings of the Romans and Greeks which are interesting in their way and there is the wealth of archeology that continues to give us clues and food for the imagination. I greedily gobble all this information up as it all helps to inform me of this islands bygone ages, giving me a connection to the land and my forebears. It is pretty safe to assume that the stone circles, ritual sites, earth works etc. around the islands that make up Great Britain and Ireland have had great significance over thousands of years to our ancient forbears and for many in the modern era they continue to hold a deep and abiding energy to draw on.
But what we really have are our stories, poems, our ancient myths and legends – and there are more than you would think that have survived, tucked away within apparently Christian texts. But ladies and gentlemen, when you know that starting a piece of writing with a dedication to Christ/God and finishing it with the same meant whatever was contained therein, could not be changed, then you can read apparently contradictory poems such as the Spoils of Annwn in a very different light. It is true that often you feel the need to be a language scholar in Old English, Middle Welsh or other ancient tongues to glean the information as it is hard to rely on translations and anyway how can we truly know the subtleties and nuances without the living language to draw upon?
But in spite of all that, the thing I find most extraordinary is that our fabulous, magical and moving tales of Arthur, Ceridwen, Merlin and many, many others are not taught in our schools, apart from the odd rendition of Grendel, which I have seen interpreted by youngsters who absolutely loved turning it into a wonderful play, these are our direct line back to all our peoples’ ancient soul. I know that there is the endless argument about where these tales belong, who claims ownership of them, where Arthur and Merlin actually lived etc, but that is all irrelevant in the end as it is the stories themselves that continue to speak to all who have an ear to listen and they don’t seem to care what part of the Isle of the Mighty you where born on!
Anyway this was not supposed to be a rant on ownership of the tales, more I was thinking about my own journey with the myths over these many years and how I have become more comfortable to call myself a Druid in this day and age with their help. This year my intention is to explore on a deeper esoteric level specifically the Arthurian related stories, some of which I am very familiar with, some not so. Although reading the various interpretations of the stories and drawing conclusions on an intellectual level is obviously a large part of the work, it is not the main thrust of this exploration.
For me, the joy of working with the stories is to find the eternal messages held within, to go beyond the words and dive deep into what they have to say on a spiritual level. Stories that have persisted for so long have gifts for every generation to feel and hear, profound truths that can open the doorways of perception, revealing the secrets and mysteries held within, despite the passage of time and changing languages. This is how the ancients of all cultures have worked over the millennia, you honour the ancestors tales by the retelling, the reliving and enlivening, making them relevant to the audience, whilst retaining the spirit and content at the core.
So, as a modern day Druid, how do you approach a journey of this kind? Well, at the risk of people reading this and thinking me a very odd sort, I will try to give you some idea of how I approach it. I decided to begin with connecting to the spirits and guides that thread through the myths, within ritual space, calling for a character from the stories to guide me for the duration of this journey. This first step took the form of a meditation held within a ritual space, which I can honestly say it was one of the most magical and profoundly moving journeys that I have experienced. I allowed the energy to guide my metaphorical feet and before I was even ready for it, I felt the energies building within the circle, the stories were impatient and their energy was palpable. I will not go into too much detail here, but it is enough to say I found myself standing before the Cauldron of Annwn, dark and pearl rimmed, kindled by the breath of the Nine maidens. Issuing from the cauldron was steam that curled and flowed around me and with full intent in my heart and mind I called for the myths to send a guide whilst I began to chant the Awen. As the first Awen began the energy rose and grew until it stopped being a sound and became an overwhelming feeling, a great sound beyond my own small voice, vibrating me to the very core of my being. The mists swirled and moved becoming images that built then faded, finally forming an indisputable presence, The Lady of the Lake.
There are times when no words will suffice and this is one of them, there was a sense of privilege to have Her in my circle, for me She is very real and what our journey holds I am not sure, but I have no doubt that I will be changed and moved in ways I cannot yet fathom. I believe that the Druids of the past would recognise my experience. I also know that whether you believe in my experience or put it all down to a vivid imagination, I am going to have an adventure that few would set out on. I will plumb the depths of these stories in a way that will be very personal but also hopefully, will shed light on some of the greater mysteries known by Druids from the past who listened to theses same tales.